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You finally get the keys to your new home. Excitedly, you unlock the door. As you make your way through the rooms, the reality hits you – this doesn’t look anything like the place you thought you bought. Those brand new Miele appliances you were so looking forward to? Replaced by 10 year old unmatched Kenmores. The crystal chandelier in the dining room? Now an IKEA special. The doorknobs? What doorknobs?
Unfortunately, we hear these stories all the time. So what are your rights as a Buyer?
Fixtures and Chattels
Let’s start with some basic definitions: A chattel is movable property and includes furnishings, things that you can pick up and move around – for example, a gas BBQ or curtains. In most real estate transactions, chattels are NOT included in a sale, unless specifically provided for in the Agreement of Purchase & Sale. A fixture, on the hand, is an item that is physically affixed to the property, for example, a medicine cabinet or XX. In most real estate transactions, fixtures are automatically part of the sale, unless excluded in the Agreement of Purchase of Sale.
When you take ownership of a house or condo, you are legally entitled to getting it in the condition it was in when your offer was accepted; if groovy light fixtures were included in the sale, then groovy light fixtures should be there when you take possession; if the stainless steal Kitchen Aid appliances were included in the sale, that’s what should be there when you move in. Of course that can work against you, the Buyer, too – if the floors beneath the area rugs were scratched before you bought it (please tell me you lifted the area rugs!), then that’s what you are entitled to. The Seller doesn’t owe you a home in perfect condition – but they do owe you the home as it was when you made an offer to purchase it.
So as a Buyer, how can you protect yourself?
- Make Like Inspector Gadget. Meticulously inspect the house or condo before making an offer and snap some photos. Take special note of the chattels and fixtures you want – makes, models and condition of appliances, what the light fixtures look like, etc.
- The Devil is in the Details. When making an offer, insist that chattels and fixtures be described in detail in the offer- we’ve even gone as far as including the serial numbers on appliances.
- Insist on a Second Date. Likely as part of your offer, you’ve stipulated that you want to visit the house a few times before taking possession. Save one of your visits for the day before close – ideally after the Sellers have moved out. Check for any changes – walls scratched by the movers, new flood damage in the basement, etc. If you notice anything significant, talk to your lawyer right away.
- Make Like Inspector Gadget Again. On the day you get possession, do a thorough inspection of the house and try out all the appliances. Most Agreements of Purchase & Sale only warrant that appliances are in working condition on the day of close – so if your washing machine breaks on Day 2, it’s your problem, not the Sellers. But if it isn’t working on the day you get possession, it’s likely the responsibility of the Sellers.
The good news is that most closings happen without a hitch. But given this is likely the biggest purchase you will ever make, surely a little caution (or a lot) is in order. And while you’re at, make sure you know how much it’s all going to cost – click here for Closing Cost info.
OMG… This happened to me….I took possession of the house open the front door and almost died. The house reaked of cat urine an smoke..cat s..t everywhere in the basement.. garbage everywhere …fridge filled with foodstuff the former owner did not .. the fridge in the basement was not working…All the light fixtures in the house was switched.. even the new windows was switched..Literally took a week to clean up the house..
Any ideas what I should do???
Melanie Piche says:
Oh no! I’m hoping you took pictures and contacted your lawyer right away? If you had a clause in the contract that the house had to be left in broom swept condition, you may be able to go after them for compensation for the cleaning, and your lawyer should be able to negotiate getting the light fixtures and window switched back if they were specifically itemized in your contract. Also, if the agreement had a clause that the chattels needed to be working condition on close, you may also have a claim about the fridge….please keep us posted!